So it’s the day before Christmas Eve and I am thinking about tradition. I talked with a pregnant friend this weekend and she was saying that Christmas next year will be very different for her new family because she will be asserting traditions in addition to all of the holiday activities that they share with their collective families already. We were talking about it, and I was thinking how our traditions so closely mimic what we grew up with whether we like it or not. There are some things that go; for instance my Mom’s mother always had rice at holiday meals which stopped a while back, and we used to always put out these little Thanksgiving candles that haven’t seen the light of day in years, but other things are so ingrained. I thought that today would be a good day to share the traditions that I grew up with that I know will still be hanging around when Drew and I have a little one.
Christmas Eve: The Day of Anticipation.
Things that define Christmas Eve: Champagne, or kids champagne, peppermint ice cream, lamb with mint jelly (but that one’s out. Sorry Mom.) making sugar cookies for the big guy, carrots for the reindeer, staying home all day hanging around the kitchen, and the all important One Present. Something that Drew and I have added to this routine: reading at least one story from David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice, preferably “Santa Land Diaries” in its entirety. Because Drew is working this year we read it out loud last weekend and laughed until we cried. As a family event, this might be replaced by the more traditional Night Before Christmas until the kids are of a good David Sedaris age, but hopefully Drew and I will always be able to slip those stories in after little heads hit the pillows, because well, we’ve been doing it since we were married, and now David’s wry voice fills the air with cheer.
Here’s the drill in its entirety: We’re not allowed (still.) out of bed until 6am at which point two things happen in no particular order: the parents are woken up and Christmas music and the tree are turned on to reveal stockings! Ok, so yes, I am a grown up and I get that, but I still wake up at 6(ish) and my parents still do stockings. In turn, Mom also gets one, but we’ll get to that. Ok, so we wake up, turn on the tunes, preheat the oven to pop in cinnamon rolls, and start the oh-so-important coffee maker, and hit the stockings, which are still one of my favorite parts of Christmas. It’s really not just about what’s in the stockings, but the fact that they just seem to appear (Bless you, mothers of the world) magically and that you never ever know what might be in a stocking. Well, we did always know that there would be an orange in the toe of our stockings, and if we were in NC with Ruth and Daddy, there was always Hershy’s kisses and pistachios in there too. During this time, Mom usually starts the turkey in the oven. The long standing rule is that everyone has to have had at least one cinnamon roll and a cuppa before we settle into the presents. This felt like an eternity as a child, which was a sweet feeling in and of itself, but now we all just kind of mosey over and ease in. We open presents one at a time with yours truly generally being in charge of distribution and we try to take our time. This part is really important to me now especially because I have an appreciation for all of the resources that have gone into creating Christmas morning, and I like that we can see each other opening presents and ohhing and ahhing and it seems like we talk the whole time the gifts are going which is a really nostalgia-inducing and unique time. After presents are done, with all of the wrapping collected in a big bag as we go, we generally lay around in pjs until it’s time to start getting the rest of dinner together. As a child, this was generally the time that we would go into an immediate joy coma and try to figure out what to play with/read/wear/listen to first. We’ve also been known to fall asleep under the tree in a fit of delight. It’s all a little overwhelming. But now, Mom and I start cooking together and for the last couple of years, we’ve come up with a new menu every year depending on what we’re in the mood for. The one thing that we always have is Mom’s pumpkin chiffon pie (or Ruth’s corn pudding if I was in NC) and some variation of the traditional vegetables.
So the new traditions: well, when in VA we’ve been eating Christmas Eve dinner with Mom and Skip’s neighbors which is a multi-course extravaganza and a true holiday event unto itself. Skip and I have started putting out a stocking for Mom which I love getting together. We’re having ham instead of turkey this year, I’m adding carrot cake into the desert rotation, and we now have a heckofa nurse in our midst which means that holidays are going to be a little different for us because we have the folks that need Drew’s care to consider. Something that I love though is that it’s all simply centered around being home and being happy which seems a little obvious, but true. Christmas was never stressful feeling, or at least I never felt any stress from my parents, it always felt like magic. I feel really lucky that my various parents, and Mom in particular, have never tried to take that magic away or make us feel like it’s no big deal, because getting excited and making fragrant food with love, and finding presents for people that you think will really be something that they would enjoy, and getting a little spoiled, and behaving like a child, well, I think that is kind of a big deal. Remember that feeling of twirling endlessly around with your arms out as a kid? Christmas morning still kind of feels that way, and I think it’s the traditions that give it so much spin.
And with that, Merry Christmas!